Tronic Studio had a vision for a media installation to be located at the headquarters of Hewlett-Packard in Palo Alto. The physical design suggested difficult video hardware challenges, and the content design included many requirements that precluded the use of any available software tools. Three Byte Intermedia was brought on to assist throughout the evolving design and implementation process by providing system design, installation management and software development services.
The system, as installed, consists of 36 HP 47” LCD monitors mounted in portrait orientation, forming a video wall 2 panels high and 18 panels wide. Each column of 2 panels is mounted on a frame that rotates around a vertical pole. The sound system includes 8 small speakers placed inside alternating columns, and 3 subwoofers mounted below the floor. The system supports synchronous 8-channel audio for video content that spans the entire wall.
The playback/render system consists of 9 HP workstations, each driving 4 displays with a pair of NVidia Quadro 4800 graphics cards. Three Byte wrote a custom video application that decodes 8 simultaneous 1080p 30fps mpeg-2 files per workstation and renders 74 mega-pixels 30 times per second to the monitor array. The system supports full native-resolution content. The computers are kept in sync via a network synchronization protocol, also developed for this project. The synchronization mechanism allows for frame-accurate looping and seamless frame-to-frame transitions between videos.
A video camera over the vestibule near the entrance detects a person entering the space. Upon entering, a visitor is greeted by a brief transparent video overlay welcoming them to the space, displayed on top of the regular video content. The motion detection application is intelligent so it will trigger the greeting when a visitor arrives but not when he departs.
Tying all the components together is a Control System, and Content Management System (CMS). The CMS allows a user to stretch and position videos on the wall, specify transparent overlay and underlay images, and build synchronous playlists for multiple videos running on different parts of the wall.
The six right-most columns of monitors are positioned at a distance from the other 12, so the entire video wall, including all mullions and other spacing between screens, has a virtual canvas size of 32,498 x 3,972 pixels, while the actual resolution of the monitors is 19,440 x 3,840. The CMS includes tools for importing content up to this size for overlay, underlay, and native-resolution video frame sequences, all of which are automatically sliced into 1920 x 1080 HD pieces appropriate for the individual displays. The CMS automatically handles all mullion management, ensuring that content always remains spatially consistent as it spans multiple displays.
When the monitors are rotated to face backwards, those that were once on the right end of the video wall are now on the left. To handle such discrepancies, the Control System detects the orientation of each column of monitors as it rotates around its pole, and directs it to play different video content, depending on which way it is facing. The Control System also includes a flexible schedule for managing email error reporting and daily system startup and shutdown.
The video rendering application is a 64-bit C++/DirectX application, using nVidia’s CUDA technology. The Control System and CMS is written in C#/WPF and employs a MS SQL 2008 database. The motion detection application is C++/openGL.
System Design and Integration, Software Design and Integration